December 19, 2010

WikiLeaks: U.S. Officials Praise Cuba but fault Jamaica in Anti-Drug Operations

By David Paulin

Cuba may be a tropical gulag and troublemaker in the hemisphere. But when it comes to the war on drug, the communist island is a reliable U.S. alley – with Cuban authorities even complaining to U.S. officials that neighboring Jamaica is failing to cooperate in drug-interdiction efforts.

That's according to a secret cable from the U.S. Special Interest Section in Havana dated August 11, 2009, and just released by WikiLeaks.

Cuba's state-controlled media follows a consistent narrative on the drug war: It's all America's fault because of its drug-hungry consumers. But in private conversations with U.S. officials, Cuban authorities are more likely to bad-mouth Jamaica -- not America. They express “significant frustration” over Jamaica's alleged failure to cooperate and share information to interdict drug-smuggling "go-fast" boats and aircraft originating from Jamaica and operating in or near Cuba, according to the diplomatic cable from Jonathan Farrar, Chief of Mission of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Citing private conversations with at least 15 members of Cuba's interior ministry, the cable stated: “Cuban (Ministry of Interior officials) contend that narcotics smugglers from Jamaica are utilizing both Cuban airspace and waters to transport narcotics ultimately destined for the United States, but their repeated attempts to engage Jamaica on the issue have been ignored.”

Jamaica is a major transshipment point for Colombian cocaine and major producer of marijuana. Earlier this year, a State Department report on international drug trafficking said Jamaica's drug trade has compromised elected officials, the police, and legitimate businesses.

Jamaica, ironically, sees itself as a loyal ally of Cuba. Indeed, many Jamaican officials with an anti-American streak express admiration for Cuba's David-and-Goliath struggle against America. Yet the outwardly friendly relations between Cuba and Jamaica don't apply to the drug war – at least not according to top Cuban officials who privately deride Jamaica to their U.S. counterparts.

"Collectively and continually, (Cuban officials) express frustration over the (Jamaican government's) consistent ignoring of Cuban attempts to increase the flow of drug-related information between the two island nations to increase interdictions and avoid 'being surprised by drugs,'" the cable stated.

Cuba's failure to elicit more cooperation from Jamaica in the drug war isn't for lack of trying. In October, 2008, for instance, the U.K.'s Defense attache arranged an unusual meeting aboard a British Navy ship in the Port of Havana, bringing together Cuban and Jamaicans officials “to encourage greater dialogue, and to quash growing frustration between the two,” related the cable. Also attending was a U.S. Coast Guard specialist in anti-narcotics operations.

The meeting went badly. Cuban officials later complained to the U.S. Coast Guard specialist "that the two Jamaican officers 'just sat there and didn’t say anything,'" according to the cable. Cuba's interior ministry officials said “that Jamaican officials commonly agree to greater information sharing in person; however, that is the extent of their efforts.”

At one point, frustrated Cuban officials started translating communications being sent to Jamaica authorities into English “because in the past (Jamaican) officials stated to (Cuba officials) they did not understand Spanish. (Interior Ministry) officers report that despite their efforts, (Jamaican) officials still do not respond.”

The cable describes two cases of Cubans capturing drug smugglers from Jamaica.

On May 27, 2009, Cuban authorities interdicted a Jamaican go-fast boat carrying 700 kilograms of Jamaican marijuana -- an operation made possible by “real-time” information provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.

And on July 5, 2009, an aircraft from Jamaica dropped 13 bales of marijuana over a barren field in Cuba. Cuban officials determined the aircraft had been heading to a drop point in The Bahamas, but dropped its cargo prematurely in Cuba due to engine problems. The three crew members made an emergency landing in Cuba and were apprehended.

According to the cable, the U.S. Coast Guard's drug-interdiction specialist “gauges that (Cuba's government) genuinely desires greater information sharing on (anti-drug) issues with Jamaican authorities to serve the (Cuban government's) strategic interests.”

“Currently, Cuban officials appear resigned to the idea that they will not see greater (Government of Jamaica) cooperation in the near future.”

Earlier this year, Kingston, Jamaica, was plunged into violence when Jamaican authorities, after months of delays, moved to capture and extradite an alleged drug lord to the U.S. The efforts to capture Christopher “Dudus” Coke raised questions about the extent to which the alleged drug lord might be protected by government officials benefiting from Jamaica's drug trade.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on the WikiLeaks cables on Tuesday, reviving claims in Jamaica that the ruling Jamaica Labor Party has been complacent with drug trafficking or is ignoring it.

The Obama administration's efforts to extradite Coke were the subject of two American Thinker articles, “Obama's Lesson in Realpolitik” and “Obama's Fruitless Quest to Extradite A Drug Thug.” (Originally published at The American Thinker blog)

December 15, 2010

The Hypocrisy of Anti-Israel 'Feminists'

By David Paulin

An ugly anti-Israel spectacle has been taking place in Philadelphia. A group of feminist women called the “Philly BDS Coalition
” has been staging “flash dances” at grocery stores to force them to stop carrying Sabra and Tribe hummus; both brands are manufactured in the U.S. but are owned by Israeli parent companies. Philly BDS charges that both companies are guilty of “Israeli war crimes.” The group is the local branch of the anti-Israel group "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine."

As the YouTube video
here shows, Philly BDS is an odd group of women. But not merely because of their masculine appearances, tasteless performances, and odd garb they wear. The women are odd because like other lefty feminists in America and the West, they vilify Israel -- yet remain utterly silent about the barbaric treatment of women in the Muslim word. None acknowledges that Israel is the only country in the Middle East were women are treated as equals to men.

What motivates these lefty feminists? At bottom their “feminism" reflects their anti-Western hated and leftist political agenda -- an agenda that's dressed up in feminist language. So says Carolyn B. Glick in a wonderful column in the Jerusalem Post, titled “The Feminist Deception

While skewering the hypocrisy of left-leaning feminists, Glick also derides Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration for in effect being ideological soul mates with Israel-hating feminists. She writes:

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – like her fellow self-described feminists – has chosen to single Israel out for opprobrium while keeping nearly mum on the institutionalized, structural oppression of women and girls throughout the Muslim world. In so acting, Clinton is of course, loyally representing the views of the Obama administration she serves. She is also representing the views of the ideological Left in which Clinton, US President Barack Obama, the human rights and feminist movements are all deeply rooted.”

Read Glick's entire essay for a blow-by-blow analysis of the corruption and hypocrisy animating feminists on the ideological Left. --(Originally published at The American Thinker blog.)

December 14, 2010

Tom DeLay and moral equivalence in Travis County, Texas

By David Paulin

Many Republicans regarded the prosecution of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as a politically motivated witch hunt. After all, the prosecution took place in Austin, Texas, located in the heart of Travis County: It's a liberal bastion in an otherwise "red" state. DeLay is hated there.

Interestingly, most people in Travis County probably would be hard-pressed to explain exactly what DeLay did to deserve to be convicted of "money laundering" -- a crime one associates with drug dealers and thugs. He's set to be sentenced later this month, and faces decades in prison.

Countering charges of a politically motivated witch hunt, DeLay's prosecutors pointed out that they also had gone after Democrats for ethics violations.

One example: State Rep. Kino Flores, a veteran South Texas politician who was convicted last October of four felony charges for failing to fully disclose assets on ethics forms.

What exactly did Flores do? Nobody would have trouble understanding that. Among other things, he ran a shake-down business. He was known as "Mr. Ten Percent" for helping people get state contracts -- and then demanding 10-percent of their profits. His victims faced him during his trial.

As the Austin American-Statesman reported:

Jesus Sifuentes, a Palmview truck driver, testified that Flores demanded — and he paid — Flores 10 percent of the money he made on a trucking contract with Transit Mix concrete company. He said Flores got him the job. He listed Flores on checks he wrote as a “consultant.”

Over three years, those payments to Flores amounted to about $20,000, the witness said. When he objected to those payments, Flores demanded $60,000 — and he refused. He then lost the Transit Mix contract, his truck, his house and eventually his marriage, Sifuentes said.

That's just one of many sleazy dealings that were described at Flores' trial. Yesterday, Flores was sentenced for his crimes: five years of probation on four felony charges; and two years of probation on five misdemeanor charges. He'd faced a $10,000 fine -- but was ordered to pay only $1,000. He also was ordered to do 400 hours of community service.

Tom DeLay faces sentencing later this month. It will be interesting to see if he also gets probation in Travis County. (Originally published at The American Thinker.)
WikiLeaks: Insult to Thin-Skinned Hugo Chávez Lands American Airlines Crew in Hot Water

By David Paulin

Two years ago in Caracas, the U.S. Embassy got an urgent call one evening. Venezuela's manager for American Airlines was on the phone, and he had a serious problem: The crew of Flight 903 was being detained at the airport.

A crew member had allegedly insulted President Hugo Chávez, explained Omar Nottaro.

A confidential U.S. Embassy cable about the Sept. 30, 2008, incident -- just released by WikiLeaks -- reveals how tough it can be to do business in socialist and authoritarian Venezuela. Among other problems there, it's a crime to insult the president -- an offense that went into the penal code in March, 2006.

The alleged “insult” happened just after the American jet landed. When announcing the local time, a crew member allegedly referred to it as "local Chavez time." There was a legitimate reason to say this -- for as the cable pointed out: "In December 2007 Venezuela created its own time zone, moving the clock back half an hour on a permanent basis. The crew member was likely trying to remind passengers of this and to suggest they turn their watches back 30 minutes.”

Unfortunately for the crew, one of the passengers aboard the jet was a friend of pro-Chavez national assemblyman Carlos Echezuria Rodriguez. Meeting Rodriguez in the airport lobby, Nestor Maldonado Lanza said the crew member had said "loco Chavez time.”

Outraged, the assemblyman demanded to listen to the on-board recordings of in-flight announcements, and he wanted statements from each crew member. Then he started making phone calls -- the first being to Venezuelan Vice President Carrizales. As the Embassy cable explains:

"The Vice President called civil aviation authority (INAC) President Martinez who went to the airport. The Directorate for Venezuelan Domestic Intelligence and Prevention, DISIP, opened an investigation. However, because ONIDEX (immigration) had not allowed the crew to go through customs, DISIP backed out of investigation and turned it over to ONIDEX which had jurisdiction as the crew had not officially entered Venezuela. The crew then waited inside the airport for the results of a meeting between airport, customs, INAC and American Airlines staff.”

Ultimately, American's quick-thinking country manager came to the rescue. As the cable explains: "Nottaro was able to diffuse the situation by promising to put the crew back on the empty airplane as soon as it was refueled and get the captain and crew out of the country immediately.

“Nottaro also apologized in person to INAC President Martinez and committed to writing several letters of apology on October 1. Venezuelan authorities accepted Nottaro's offer and the crew left Venezuela at 11:30 pm. American made the decision to turn the plane around even though it meant canceling AA flight 902 out of Caracas the morning of October 1, at considerable cost to the airline.”

Earlier that month, a Delta crew also was involved in an "incident" at the Caracas airport, the cable noted. It didn't elaborate except to say the American incident was "yet another example of how heightened sensitivities are in the bilateral relationship when a chance remark escalates within minutes to the level of the Venezuelan Vice Presidency.”

The cable, incidentally, never nailed down exactly what the flight crew member said. However, according to a report from Venezuelan immigration -- obtained by an Embassy officer from an Interpol contact -- the crew member said "the hour of the crazy Chavez and his women."

(Originally published at The American Thinker)

December 11, 2010

Hugo Chávez's ex-wife gives Washington insights into strongman's psyche: WikiLeaks

By David Paulin

The Clinton and Bush administrations were flummoxed by Hugo Chávez's anti-Americanism. Rabid and inexplicable, it started soon after Chávez was elected president in 1998. During his presidential campaign, on the other hand, he'd presented himself as a moderate seeking a "Third Way" between socialism and capitalism.

Venezuela had traditionally been pro-American, aside from the occasional burning of an American flag outside the U.S. Embassy or a
blood-thirsty mob attacking Vice President Richard Nixon in 1958.

The likes of Chávez had never been seen in a Venezuelan leader. What made Chávez tick?

By 2004 -- well into President Bush's first term and six years into Chávez's -- Washington still apparently didn't know. However, the Bush administration finally wanted answers, having belatedly realized it had been distracted for too long by 9/11 and the war on terror.

In Caracas, accordingly, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy sought out an interesting source of information -- Chávez's former common-law wife, Herma Marksman. A history professor, Marksman lived with Chávez for nine years between 1984 and 1993. In Venezuela, such arrangements are common.

According to a confidential
diplomatic cable dated July 9, 2004, and released by WikiLeaks, the officer's objective in interviewing Marksman was to understand "the development of Chávez's political ideology."

Among highlights of the cable based on Marksman's comments:

*Chávez as a poor youngster was influenced by a teacher who admired Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Ambitions from an early age, Chávez imagined himself running the country as a 20 year-old.

*As a junior officer in Venezuela's Army, Chávez fell under the influence of Douglas Bravo, a former communist and guerrilla leader during Venezuela's 1960's communist insurgency. It was Bravo, not Chávez , who developed the philosophy of the "Bolivarian Revolution," which takes its name from Venezuelan liberator and national hero Simon Bolivar. A cornerstone of the Bolivarian Revolution is close civil-military cooperation.

*"Marksman stated that Chávez is loyal to no one and does not have true friends. If he has a problem, he will only confide in his brother, Adan, whom she characterized as a communist, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro," wrote the Embassy officer.

According to WikiLeaks, the full cable was not available and so it provided a "partial extract."

Interestingly, the WikiLeaks cable provides nothing new, but echoes much of what Venezuela's news media had reported well before 2004. In short, the cable is remarkable for the lack of insider's knowledge one expects of diplomatic cables.

Marksman, for instance, had been interviewed by Venezuela's media numerous times before 2004. In addition, two Venezuelan journalists published a well-received book in 2004 that mentioned much of what was contained in the cable. Marksman is mentioned in numerous passages of "
Hugo Chávez: The Definitive Biography of the Venezuela's Controversial President."

If the cable's information was new to anybody in the Bush administration, this suggests the administration in 2004 was as behind the curve on Chávez as the Clinton administration had been in 1998.

Consider Clinton-era Ambassador to Venezuela
John Maisto. He regarded former coup leader Chávez as democrat who'd traded the bullet for the ballet. Maisto, according to former Heritage Foundation analyst John Sweeney, was "a career diplomat strongly associated with the Democratic Party and Liberation Theology ideas."

"Maisto was always soft on Chávez, like he was soft on Daniel Ortega during his stint as Ambassador to Nicaragua in the 1990s, before he was sent to Venezuela," Sweeney wrote in an essay, "
Playing the Washington Blame Game."

Whatever became of Maisto after leaving Caracas? Incredibly, as Sweeney points out, Maisto "became the first senior appointee on Latin America in the Bush administration."

Eventually, Chávez's anti-Americanism had its intended effect -- poisoning the views of millions of Venezuelans about the U.S.. Accordingly, the U.S. Embassy finally decided it must respond with a major campaign to counter such anti-Americanism.

It sent a
confidential cable on March 26, 2008: “Embassy Strategic Communications – Countering Chavez' (sic) Anti-Americanism.” It stated:

"The strategy's goal is to counter the active and deliberate campaign by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (BRV) to instill in the population a negative perception of the US. and distort more than 100 years of close and mutually beneficial relations between our two countries. Regrettably, the BRV has had some success. From a pre-Chavez level of over 65% approval, today the positive image of the US has fallen to a historic low of 31% in Venezuela." --Originally published at The American Thinker.

December 7, 2010

Kuwait's Gitmo solution: 'Kill them!'

By David Paulin

What to do with the Gitmo prisoners? The Obama administration frets and dithers. Kuwait's interior minister has a simple solution: Drop them into a combat zone in Afghanistan -- and kill them!

That's according to a secret diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait dated Feb. 5, 2009, and just released by WikiLeaks. The title of the cable from U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait Deborah K. Jones: “THE INTERIOR MINISTER'S REMEDY FOR TERRORISTS: 'LET THEM DIE.'”

Kuwait's creative Gitmo solution came up during a meeting on joint anti-terror initiatives attended by Jones and Kuwait's interior minister, Shaykh Jaber al-Khalid Al Sabah. Touching on terror financing and the Guantanamo prisoners, the discussion was politically incorrect, to say the least.

"Jihad" -- a word the Obama administration publicly abhors because it offends many Muslims -- is used repeatedly in reference to Islamic terrorists when describing the meeting. Jones, moreover, calls four Kuwaiti prisoners "nasty, unrepentant individuals" -- but would nevertheless like Kuwait to take them off the Obama administration's hands, perhaps to be reprogrammed in "rehabilitation centers."

The administration is nevertheless concerned that the Kuwaiti jihadists don't end up like "former Gitmo detainee al-Ajmi, who'd allegedly blown himself up in Mosul following his release to the Kuwaiti authorities," Jones points out. She adds that former Gitmo prisoners from Saudi Arabia returned to the battlefield after being released from Saudi “rehabilitation centers.”

Poo-pooing the idea of rehabilitation centers, Shaykh Jaber explains: “I can talk to you into next week about building a rehabilitation center, but it won't happen. We are not Saudi Arabia; we cannot isolate these people in desert camps or somewhere on an island.

"We cannot compel them to stay. If they are rotten, they are rotten and the best thing to do is get rid of them. You picked them up in Afghanistan; you should drop them off in Afghanistan, in the middle of the war zone."

Citing another problem with taking Kuwaiti Gitmo prisoners, the interior minister mentions the "constraints of Kuwait's current legal and political systems" which the Gitmo detainees could exploit.

"You know better than I that we cannot deal with these people,” he tells Jones. “I can't detain them. If I take their passports, they will sue to get them back.” Indeed, Jones herself notes that Al-Ajmi sued to get his passport back before blowing himself up.

Shaykh Jaber -- "smiling broadly" as the cable tells it -- questions why the U.S. Navy had two weeks earlier rescued seven Iranian hashhish smugglers whose boat was foundering.

"God wished to punish them for smuggling drugs by drowning them," he tells Jones, "and then you saved them. So they're your problem! You should have let them drown."

Shaykh Jaber expressed concerns as well "about terrorist influences from Saudi Arabia as from Iran."

Regarding Iraq, Jones noted that Shaykh Jaber started the meeting by "applauding the 'huge success' of the provincial elections in Iraq and expressing his confidence in the ability of President Obama and the 'super power' U.S. to address current challenges."

What might members of Obama's far-left political base make of all this?

Concluding the cable, Jones observed:

“The Minister was as frank and pessimistic as ever when it came to the subject of apprehending and detaining terror financiers and facilitators under Kuwait's current legal and political framework. Ongoing tensions between parliament and the PM and his cabinet make any changes highly unlikely any time soon. The remaining GITMO detainees remain a particularly thorny issue for the leadership here, who privately recognize the downsides of taking custody and readily acknowledge their inability to manage them but who remain under strong domestic political pressure to "bring their boys home."

Originally published at The American Thinker.

December 2, 2010

WikiLeaks Embassy Cables Reveal Venezuela's Health-Care System Collapsing

By David Paulin

Some of Venezuela's public hospitals are closing. Others are ridden with crime. Many physicians are quitting medicine -- starting new careers in Venezuela or immigrating abroad, upset at being paid a pittance or not paid at all. Medical supplies are in short supply.

A "confidential" U.S. Embassy cable from Caracas, just released by Wikileaks, says socialist Venezuela's health-care system is in "disarray” – and the poor are suffering the most. The document appears to be authentic. However, U.S. officials have flatly refused to confirm the authenticity of any purloined documents published by Wikleaks.

The Embassy cable released in December, 2009, blames Venezuela's ongoing health-care crisis squarely on President Hugo Chávez – his Cuban-style health care initiatives and overall mismanagement; not to mention his politicization of the South American's nation's health-care system. Physicians perceived as being anti-Chávez are disciplined, while incompetent military officials are placed in charge of public hospitals.

Looking ahead, the 1,900-word document warns that Chávez may create more havoc by nationalizing Venezuela's private clinics. They provide high-quality U.S.-style health care, something I experienced first-hand at private Clinica de Caracas, when going their for routine care and for some stitches to my forehead after an accident at a local gym. I was a Caracas-based journalist for much of the 1990s, leaving Venezuela in 2000 to go to CNN in Atlanta. This year Chávez has seized 234 companies, according to the Venezuelan Confederation of Industries (Conindustria).

The U.S. Embassy's blunt anti-Chávez critique comes, ironically, as oil-producing Venezuela enjoys record levels of oil wealth while embarking on Chávez's version of "21st-Century socialism." The ongoing health-care crisis says much about Chávez -- and specifically about the way such populist and authoritarian rulers invariably wreck a nation's economy with bread-and-circus socialism.

Little if any coverage has been given to Venezuela’s collapsing health-care system, with one exception being a piece in the Los Angeles Times. Accordingly, the cable provides a fascinating insider's glimpse of how Chávez is transforming Venezuela into a Latin American version of Zimbabwe, as one senior French official put it in a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

To be sure, Venezuela's public health-care system was declining years before Chávez became president 12 years ago -- thanks to Venezuela's notorious mismanagement; endemic corruption; and a dwindling supply of petro-dollars to support Venezuela's huge government bureaucracy.

Yet according to the Embassy cable, that deterioration has worsened significantly under Chávez -- a former coup leader whom poor and well-off alike voted for in a landslide election victory. He'd pledged to reverse years of decline in the oil-rich nation with a "Third Way" between socialism and capitalism. Venezuela's economy and quality-of-life had been in a tailspin since the end of soaring oil prices in the mid-1970s. Back then, the country was called “Saudi Venezuela.” It seemed poised for First World status.

Cuba-style heath care

According to the Embassy cable, Chávez has undermined Venezuela's public health-care system by creating a "parallel" Cuba-inspired medical system that most Venezuelans dislike: community medical clinics called “Barrio Adentro” (Mission Inside the Neighborhood) that provide “free” care provided by Cuban physicians.

According to the cable, critics say the missions are inefficient and have drained funding away from public hospitals that poor and middle-class Venezuelans still prefer – thus "lowering the overall quality of medical care" for everybody. Of the 30,000 personnel staffing the Cuba-style free clinics, about one half are reportedly Cuban physicians.

Interestingly, the Embassy cable is at odds with the two United Nation's agencies -- UNICEF and the Latin American branch of the World Health Organization. Both have reportedly praised the Cuban-style missions.

Regarding the politicization of Venezuela’s health-are system, the cable said health authorities have “suspended doctors for speaking out about the crisis while giving former military officers and community councils a greater role in hospital administration."

Another problem is Chávez's plans to "eliminate a government health care benefit that pays for public workers to receive health care at private clinics, a move that would place even greater strain on already overburdened public hospitals," the cable notes. This has outraged many middle-class Venezuelans.

"The evidence suggests that all classes of Venezuelans continue to prefer public hospitals to Barrio Adentro, even as the quality of medical services in the former has deteriorated.”

The cable added: “To the extent that President Chavez has acknowledged Venezuela's health care crisis, (Venezuela's government) has looked to Barrio Adentro and Cuba – and not the public hospitals – as the solution.”

What do Venezuelans think of Cuban physicians? An answer was suggested by a "secret" Embassy cable sent in January, 2006. Its title: "Cuba/Venezuela Axis of Mischief: The View From Caracas."

The cable's focus was on Cuba's growing influence in Venezuela, including by Cuban intelligence agents. But it also dealt with "free" Cuban health care, stating: "Anecdotal reporting suggests the care Cuban doctors provide is often lacking and that many 'physicians' are actually medical students."

Cuban doctors were earning about $400 per month, but they apparently weren't being paid up front. According to the cable: "A Cuban physician told (the Embassy's) medical advisor...that he received room, board, and toiletries but that the Cuban Government was 'holding' his salary until he finished his two-year tour."

Citing an interview with a local legislator, one Embassy officer reported that some "Cuban doctors complained bitterly that the Cuban regime held their families hostage while the doctors relied on local donations to survive."

Cuban Physicians Flee

Not surprisingly, hundreds of Cuban physicians have sought and been granted visas from the U.S. Embassy, according two separate Embassy cables describing the plight of Cuban physicians. The doctors complained of "poor working conditions, inadequate medical supplies, and of constantly being watched and monitored by co-workers," according to a
"secret" Embassy cable sent in April, 2009, and titled: "Cuban Medical Personnel Flee Venezuela."

Most of the asylum-seeking physicians managed to leave Venezuela, but in many cases only after suffering harassment from Venezuelan officials or paying bribes of up to $1,000, according to a
"confidential" Embassy cable sent in February, 2010, describing increased harassment of asylum-seeking physicians.

Here are some horrific examples of Venezuela's health-care crisis cited by the Embassy cable dealing with Venezuela's collapsing health-care system:

*"Criminals go to the public hospitals to rob, steal, and even kill patients. The emergency room in Hospital Vargas is only open for twelve hours-between seven in the morning and seven at night-because of security concerns."

*In the impoverished Catia area of Caracas, 140 physicians staged a mass resignation at one of the area's "two largest and most important public hospitals" for poor Venezuelans. They were upset over unpaid wages and benefits, lack of hospital funding -- and the Health Ministry's suspension of four physicians accused of "inciting" patients to protest poor hospital conditions.

*An Embassy officer was told by an unnamed person (the name was deleted by WikiLeaks or an Embassy official) that Venezuela's government had “suspended doctors to discourage them from speaking out about the health care crisis. Last year four doctors were suspended when they exposed the accidental death of six babies in a maternity ward.” According to the unnamed person, Venezuela's government “has limited the role of the resident doctors in hospital management and transferred authority to local community councils.

*Shortages of basic medical supplies have prompted physicians “to ask patients to purchase their own needles, disinfectants and gauze." A Venezuelan whose name was deleted in the Embassy cable (presumably by WikiLeaks or an Embassy official) told an Embassy officer that "doctors sometimes dress wounds with the same dirty bandages. Other patients are told to bring their own X-rays from private clinics. In many areas of Caracas, public hospitals suffer from water shortages, forcing doctors to postpone important operations. In some of the older public hospitals, the plumbing systems cannot pump water above the first few floors of the building.”

*"The maternity ward of the Lidice hospital – considered the second most important in Caracas for many years – has now been closed for two years, while Catia's other major public hospital, Los Magallanes Jose Gregorio Hernandez, has been partially closed for over a year while awaiting renovation."

*Salaries for physicians are “barely enough to cover rent in Caracas.” Accordingly, "many doctors have left the public hospitals in search of other jobs, while some of the most qualified have left the country to earn better salaries abroad. In a December 4 press report, the Venezuelan Medical Federation (FMV) estimated that the public hospitals are understaffed by 43 percent."

*An unnamed Venezuela (his name was deleted) told an Embassy officer "that the quality of health care in the public hospitals has deteriorated as (Venezuela's government) has redirected resources to Barrio Adentro. Although Barrio Adentro has translated into political gains for President Chávez , its medical impact is questionable, despite having received massive government investment."

As revelations of the Embassy cable are publicized, expect the hyper-sensitive Hugo Chávez to go into a frothing anti-American rage.

(Originally published at The American Thinker.)